Covid waste management still a concern according to experts

Monika Yadav New Delhi | Updated on June 13, 2021

Covid waste needs to be treated in a scientific manner   -  PTI

According to Biotic, Covid-related waste generated was nearly 7.2 t/day last July

As the country deals with the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and the healthcare facilities overwhelmed, biomedical waste management too became a major cause of concern.

CPCB guidelines

Covid waste needs to be treated in a scientific manner as it is infectious. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has prepared guidelines for handling, treatment and disposal of waste generated during the treatment, diagnosis and quarantine of Covid-19 patients to facilitate waste generators and common disposal facilities for safe collection, transport and disposal of Covid waste.

Acoording to the CPCB, there are 198 Common Bio-medical Waste Treatment and Disposal Facilities (CBWTFs) involved in the treatment and disposal of biomedical waste. Since February there has been a gradual increase in the biomedical waste from 53 tonnes per day (TPD) to 203 TPD, but this was still less than the increase in the number of patients, mainly due to proper segregation of waste, it said.

However, according to Biotic, which is one of the largest biomedical waste disposal facilities in Delhi, last July Covid-related waste generated was nearly 7.2 tonnes a day. This increased to 12.5-13 tonnes per day by the end of April 2021. It said, for a city like Gurugram, there is only one government-approved CBWTF for collection, transportation, and treatment.

“Since the pandemic, CBWTF has faced an unprecedented demand from the residential societies alone for the collection and processing of the COVID-19 biomedical waste. The bigger challenge has been the poor compliance with Central guidelines, such as the Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016, and the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016. This increases the chances of adverse health impact for waste and sanitation workers due to inadvertent ‘leakages’ of harmful waste,” Gurpreet Sandhu, President, Council for Healthcare & Pharma, said.

Future difficulties

Meanwhile, Priti Banthia Mahesh, Chief Program Coordinator at the environmental group Toxics Link cautions against the likely third wave of Covid-19 pandemic which may make it difficult to manage the future waste with the current system which has many lacunae.

“The treatment facilities pay separately for Covid waste and in that scenario we see there is a huge concern as a lot of masks, gloves are being dumped or sold after treatment. So there are enough facilities but unfortunately there is some waste which is not landing at the facilities or leaking out,” Mahesh said.

It is also a big question whether regulatory agencies have enough capacity in terms of resources to monitor the handling of garbage, as in pandemic times, it has not been easy, said Mahesh, adding the monitoring mechanism needs to be stricter also.

There are clear guidelines for disposal of waste generated during home quarantine which should be segregated and handled separately. But municipalities all over the country have hardly put a system in place to collect that and in the second wave of Covid that gap is clearly visible, as per experts.

There is also a concern whether the workers are trained enough to handle the waste because again there is a risk of infection and we had a lot of reports where waste workers have been infected by the virus and many lost their lives, said Mahesh. “Also with the vaccination drive, we need to be alert about how the vaccine waste generated is being handled and not falling into the wrong hands,” she further added.

Now that the Virus spread has reached rural areas, creating public awareness about these guidelines is needed. Also, there are some States which don't have enough waste treatment facilities, so healthcare facilities are not connected with CBWTFs which may also aggravate further infections, Mahesh said.

Published on June 06, 2021

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